No. 50(May 2011)
- Rodo-soken proposes urgent measures for
Rebuilding from 3/11 earthquake and tsunami
Deputy Secretary General
Japan Research Institute for Labour Movement
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit east coast of Japan caused the worst damage since the end of World War II, which includes an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Two months after the disaster, more than a hundred thousand people are forced to endure life in emergency evacuation centers.
Rodo-soken on April 22 published a proposal for reconstruction measures in the interest of residents focusing on employment and work to give courage and hope to the survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. In putting forward these measures, we put emphasis on the need to give priority to helping survivors reestablish the foundations of their living conditions, which are essential for the efforts to recover from the disaster and rebuild their living. We believe that this is the best way to give survivors courage to rebuild their lives with prospects.
We propose the following four concrete measures:
<<Work and homes for all survivors, including those who are out of work>>
An overwhelming majority of farmers, fishermen, and small business owners, including retailers, and their families are left without income in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. These people should be classified as gunemployedh. Those unemployed who are covered by the employment insurance are entitled to receive unemployment benefits. But it is also necessary to allow for a wider application of the unemployment benefits and the Employment Adjustment Subsidy, and to create a separate system of unemployment benefits for other jobless people so that all people without jobs as a result of the massive disaster can live without uncertainties.
<<National government and local governments must fulfill their responsibility for the public by helping in job creation>>
Efforts to recover from the earthquake and tsunami begin with rubble removal, and should be followed by various reconstruction programs. Public authorities should create job placement programs tomeet the needs of the residents. They can offer quake victims jobs in rubble removal. For fishermen and farmers, they can create jobs in restoring farmlands and fishing grounds. In restoring social infrastructure, contracts should be awarded primarily to local constructors. If high-tech engineering is needed, large general contractor construction companies should be invited to participate in joint programs with local constructors.
Cash-for-work programs are necessary in post-disaster reconstruction efforts, as recommended by the International Labour Organization (ILO), because it will make it possible to support disaster-hit peoplefs living by offering them jobs on a cash-for-the-dayfs-work basis, which will help in cash flow in regional economies.
<<Planning local reconstruction with residentsf and local governmentsf participation>>
Residentsf councils for reconstruction should be established to work out reconstruction plans with residents and local governments participating.
<<Publicly-funded assistance is needed to agriculture, fisheries and other affected local industries as well as small- and medium-sized businesses>>
Local governments should draw up reconstruction plans for local industries, agriculture and fisheries based on a consensus of residents, including production of local specialties using local agricultural and fishery products.
The quake-hit regions include many areas that produce electronic components, IT equipment, and auto parts. In order to rebuild these industrial areas, large corporations are called upon to fulfill their social responsibility by helping suppliers restart their operations and rebuild their plants. It is necessary to discourage companies from shutting down their plants by requiring them to report to the local government and hold prior consultation about their withdrawal plans. This is essential to secure jobs for local workers.
Use a part of internal reserves to financially help reconstruction
The Rodo-soken proposal calls for a 15 trillion yen (180 billion dollars; 125 euro)-fund for reconstruction. This is possible if corporations use a part of their internal reserves. We specifically propose that 33,355 companies capitalized at more than 100 million yen underwrite 15 trillion yen non-interest-bearing government bonds. This amount is just 4.7 percent of 317.6 trillion yen held in internal reserves by these companies. Their liquidity property is valued at 99 trillion yen, which includes 16 trillion yen that has been added to just in the past two years. This means that they can underwrite a total of 15 trillion yen government bonds if they use the portion that was added in the past two years.
Rodo-soken estimates that the use of eight trillion yen for rebuilding social infrastructure, five trillion yen for livelihood-assistance to people in disaster areas, and two trillion yen for the reconstruction of local industries will have an economic ripple effect of 26.5 trillion yen in induced expenditure on domestic production and 26.3 trillion yen in induced added value. This would help raise the nationfs economic growth rate by 2.6 percent.
These measures would put the sluggish Japanese economy on a recovery track. If our country can make its economic grow steady, it is possible to have good prospects for redeeming government bonds.
Zenroren helping to build solidarity and
increase disaster relief efforts
Director, International Bureau
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
Immediately after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit northeast Japan, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) launched an appeal calling for solidarity with and aid to victims of the devastating disaster. The appeal was translated into English and sent out to friends throughout the world. Many friends abroad have offered Zenroren union members and Japanese workers their condolences and sympathy as well as cash donations.
Zenrorenfs International Department is sending electronic mail news about relief activities Zenroren has been carrying out in the aftermath of the disaster. Many of our friends throughout the world are attentive in following information we provide regarding Zenrorenfs activities, relief activities as told by union members, who are also survivors of the disaster. A U.S. union activist is using his mailing list to have Zenroren information read by as many people as possible. News items from Zenroren are also being posted on the websites of Australiafs Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) of India. These brother unionsf cooperation is helping many friends abroad send their heart-warming messages and donations to Zenroren. The General Confederation of Labor of France (CGT) is regularly updating Zenroren news on a special page of its website.
In my recent meeting on April 11 with the CGT of France, attended also by activists from metal and energy workersf unions as well as from the CGT journal, I explained about damage northeast Japan sustained in the earthquake and tsunami and the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Participants showed great interest in the devastating disaster by asking me many questions concerning the impact of the disaster on society and on workers, Zenrorenfs initiatives for rebuilding society and workersf participation in disaster recovery efforts.
In the afternoon, I had an opportunity to discuss with officials of the labor union of the worldfs largest conglomerate in the nuclear industry headquartered in France, Areva, which is involved in energy-related business, including the development of uranium mining, the enrichment of energy, nuclear reprocessing, construction of nuclear reactors, and the development of renewable energies. Arevafs business is closely connected with the French power company, Électricité de France (EDF). Its activities range from power plant construction to the maintenance of plants. It puts the nuclear unit of Germanyfs Siemens under control. It is a holding company that almost monopolizes orders from EDF. It has close relations with Japan through its involvement in the nuclear reprocessing plant at Rokkasho in the northern Japanese prefecture of Aomori. Areva and Japanfs Mitsubishi Heavy Industries run a joint company ("New Company") in the nuclear fuel fabrication business, like joint ventures between Toshiba Corporation and Westinghouse Electric Company, and between Hitachi Ltd. and General Electric.
In Areva, CGT-affiliated federations in construction and energy have their unions. I learned about some aspects of nuclear plant workersf working conditions.
One thing that struck me was that French power plants have been gradually increasing the use of subcontractors, resulting in the lack of occupational safety and the deterioration of working conditions. In the past, Areva as a public enterprise used to undertake most of nuclear plant work, including production and maintenance. Today, it depends on many subcontractors for its work. Those subcontractors do not necessarily have expertise in handling radiation. This means that workers are often forced to risk exposure to radiation and that workplace safety is in great peril. Lean production is being applied to the workplace at nuclear power plants, which should be very strict about observing the safety-first principle. As a result, suppliers are increasingly forced to accept cuts in unit prices paid to them. Excessively heavy workloads are forcing workers to quit their jobs at a higher rate. Francefs nuclear power plants, like Japanese plants, are as old as 30 years. But they are short of accumulated engineering skills, making it difficult to ensure the safety. I found that subcontracting workers without expertise tend to be forced to perform hazardous jobs, just as it is the case in Japan.
Ironically, luxurious public facilities have been built in areas around nuclear power plants, just as in Japan, and discount rates on electric bills are applied to those areas (free in some areas).
France emended the law to require the plant operators to save funds in case of reactor decommissioning. Areva is actually involved with decommissioning reactors. I think it is very important to have a law to obligate the electric power company and reactor manufacturers to fulfill their social responsibility, including the responsibility to protect the environment, so that a part of profits will be used for such purposes. On the part of labor, the unions at the electric power company, manufacturers, and maintenance companies are joining with unions at subcontracting companies in holding a labor meeting in early April to share experiences and information on their struggle to improve working conditions. Union activists were frank in telling me that unions tend to be less interested in problems facing subcontractors. I felt these efforts are a manifestation of the advanced role militant unions are playing.
I also learned that disclosure of information is a major issue in France. I told them that many Japanese people are complaining about the way information is made available to the public and the way media are reporting on the nuclear accident. They said France may have better understanding of whatfs going on in Japan, wondering why the Japanese government is not doing enough on information disclosure. I was told that France has learned lessons of the Chernobyl accident in trying to make available information as quickly as possible about radioactive elements released in air, by analyzing it along with data from the French meteorological agency. They said that it is questionable for the Japanese government to make information on radioactive contamination available in a concentric fashion. They also said data must be disclosed from all angles so that researchers can analyze them. This is precisely the same as the Zenroren position calling for disclosure of information and concentrate wisdom of experts.
The accident at Fukushima Daiichi has prompted European people to begin discussing nuclear power generation and energy policy in general. In Germany, opposition parties against nuclear power generation and demanding moratorium on nuclear plants were victorious in the recent local elections. In Italy, the government has been forced to revoke its policy of promoting nuclear power generation. In the United States, our friends in the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) are taking part in a campaign in Vermont in opposition to the planned extension of nuclear power plant operation. Unions in many countries are expressing their hope to discuss energy policy. I hope that we can develop a nationwide debate in Japan on this immediate question as well as work style and economic policy, sharing it with overseas friends.
*December 14, 2010 | Rodo-soken published a proposal: gImproving treatment of workers is key to ending the deflationary trends. We demand that corporations fulfill their social responsibility.h
*December 17, 2010 | Rodo-soken held a report-back public meeting on its gstudy tour of France and Britain on employment rules and livelihood security.h
*April 22, 2011 | Rodo-soken proposed reconstruction measures in the interest of residents focusing on employment and work to give courage and hope to the survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. It also requested that electric power companies refrain from carrying out rolling power outages and that the government bear responsibility to secure power supply and impose restrictions on the consumption of electricity among commercial-scale utility customers.
Japan Research Institute of Labor Movement
Rodo-Soken is a labor think tank that carries out research and studies on labor-related issues in cooperation with the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), the national trade union center representing the class interests of the Japanese workers, in order to help advance the Japanese trade union movement theoretically as well as practically in response to the needs of the movement.